Oct 12

Appreciating Carlos Beltran; Wondering About Return To The Mets

There are a lot of people who tell me if the New York Mets aren’t in the playoffs, and if there’s no arch enemy such as the Yankees to root against, they don’t bother watching the playoffs.

Too bad, because they missed a classic Friday night, and another example of Carlos Beltran’s post-season excellence to marvel over.

BELTRAN: I would take him back. (AP)

BELTRAN: I would take him back. (AP)

Beltran will be a free agent this winter, and because the man can still play and one must wonder if the Mets will make a run at him.

You do remember, that rather than pick up his $18.5-million option, the at-the-time rebuilding Mets chose to trade him to the Giants for Zack Wheeler.

I understood what the Mets were doing at the time, but even so I always appreciated Beltran, who is arguably one of the top five position players in franchise history.

I don’t know if Beltran is a Hall of Famer, but he’s a very good regular season player and an off-the-charts October performer.

Beltran drove in all three Cardinals’ runs and threw out a runner at the plate in a scintillating 3-2 victory over the Dodgers.

Add them up now and Beltran is hitting .345 with 16 home runs, 12 doubles and 34 RBI in 40 career postseason games. He also has 42 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. He’s played in October with the Astros, Mets and Cardinals, but has never played in the World Series. He is, however, an eight-tim All-Star.

“It’s just fun to watch him do his thing,’’ Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said last night.

A lot of Mets’ fans don’t want to hear that as they are instead they are caught up on one pitch Beltran took for a called third strike to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

Hopefully, Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon was able to convey that to Beltran, along with the organization’s apologies for how his tenure in Flushing ended. You’ll remember, with the competitive part of the 2009 season over, instead of Beltran having knee surgery they opted to bring him back to play in 19 meaningless September games and was eventually shut down.

Then, in the offseason there was a snit between him and the organization – when Omar Minaya was still general manager – over knee surgery and Beltran had it on his own.

Beltran, as the team player he is, had no problem moving to right field for first year manager Terry Collins. Then came the trade for Wheeler and again the remembrances of the called third strike he took from Adam Wainwright.

That was a monster pitch that froze Beltran. It would have frozen Ted Williams. It would have frozen Babe Ruth. It was that good a pitch.

Instead of appreciating what Beltran gave the Mets during his tenure. Instead of acknowledging how he played hurt for the Mets, including with a broken face after his horrific collision with Mike Cameron, a great many Mets’ fans failed to recognize what they had.

Beltran, a free agent this winter, said he’d be open to a return to the Mets. I’d love for him to finish out his career here, where he’d take the pressure off David Wright and would be a tremendous influence to the Mets’ young outfielders in Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker.

Then, when 2015 rolls around with Matt Harvey’s expected return, we might enjoy seeing Beltran in another Mets’ October.

Jun 14

David Wright Shows Graciousness In Embarrassing Moment

For those scoring at home, the website Cougarlife.com, has over 3.9 million members, which is probably close to double what the New York Mets will draw this year. And, a fraction of that would be enough to select David Wright to the All-Star Game this July at Citi Field.

So, despite the obvious reaction of “what were they thinking?’’ the potential numbers indicate it might not have been that horrible an idea. But, numbers aren’t the only, or most significant measure of what this is about.

WRIGHT: Worthy of applause.

WRIGHT: Worthy of applause.

Where it becomes horrible is the appearance of desperation, and that the Mets can’t draw enough on their own to put Wright into the All-Star Game.

My initial reaction, like most, was the partnership idea, and in this era of political correctness, once that door is opened what other sexually-oriented websites and business would demand equal representation?

While there is little doubt a “Sodom and Gomorrah Night’’ at Citi Field would probably bring more people than Foreigner will tonight, do the Mets really want to go there?

To their credit, the Mets – unlike your average politician – owned up to their intentions after they backed out of the potential partnership. Also, to his credit, Wright handled the matter with grace and composure, and admitted this drive to get him elected was embarrassing.

“It’s nice when the organization is trying so hard to do something for one of their players,’’ Wright told reporters after the Mets lost another game. “And I can’t thank them enough for that. At the same time, I’ve asked them to back it down a little bit, especially with the stuff in between innings.

“You appreciate what they’re trying to do, and they’re very good-hearted. At the same time, this is a team game. As much as I’d like to be here to represent this team in the All-Star Game, we can’t let this become an in-between-inning, one-player production. Especially with the way we’re playing as a team, I feel very uncomfortable being singled out for All-Star Game-type stuff.’’

That’s exactly the type of persona the Mets and Major League Baseball should be marketing. Class is a decreasing commodity today in sports, so when it’s there it should be appreciated. Wright is such a figure. So is San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan, who at the start of the second half last night, walked over to Miami’s Dwayne Wade to ask how he was feeling as the two collided earlier and Wade aggravated an injury.

As far as Cougarlife.com naming him baseball’s hottest cub, the question was going to get asked and Wright had two ways he could have gone with it. He either could have been a jerk or could have been gracious.

“Serious? Ummm, I guess it’s a nice honor,’’ Wright said. “Did you guys have to draw straws for who asked that question? I guess I’d like to thanks my parents for the genes.’’

It’s non-stop now with Twitter and the Internet. Times have changed, and not always for the better. This reminds me of a story about Babe Ruth, who stark naked chased a woman through a train car when that’s how teams traveled.

Reporters also traveled with the teams at that time. Upon seeing Ruth, one reporter turned to another and said, “I guess this is one more story we’re not going to write.’’

No chance today. The pressures are enormous and if you’ve seen it up close, you can understand why some players can’t take it.

When Wright first came up, a lot in the media wrote how they hoped he wouldn’t change. He has somewhat, but on the things that matter, the core person – at least the public image – hasn’t changed and that’s one of the best things he brings to the table.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 26

Does Ike Davis Even Know The Fundamentals Of Hitting?

Ike Davis should log on to his computer, Google the book, “Ted Williams: The Science of Hitting,’’ and order a copy.

Maybe it is time both he and the Mets realize Davis isn’t just struggling, but that perhaps he doesn’t know too much about hitting. Davis homered yesterday, but for my money I would rather he slapped a single to left in the sixth with runners on second and third and two outs.

DAVIS: Another strike out. (AP)

DAVIS: Another strike out. (AP)

Instead, he struck out. Again. For those scoring at home, it was the 24th time he has walked back to the dugout in disgust, compared to just 12 hits. Old stats, new stats, it doesn’t matter, Davis is not producing.

Davis has four homers and seven RBI. He’s hitting .174 with a .260 on-base percentage, .348 slugging percentage and .608 OPS. However, the number that kills me is he’s on pace for 194 strikeouts.

I spoke with Davis about strikeouts and using the whole field and he told me he’s a home run hitter, he likes to hit home runs, and strikeouts are part of the equation. He’s missing the boat with that reasoning, much like he’s missing the breaking ball away.

Suppose Davis cut his strikeouts in half to 97, which is still a lot. That would be 97 times he would be putting the ball in play instead of throwing his bat. Think how many more homers he’d produce in those 97 at-bats, not to mention productive at-bats when he’ll drive in a run with a hit, sacrifice fly or ground out.

“It’s about contact,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “These big home run hitters, they’re going to strike out. That’s part of the program. Ike, when he’s going good, he gets hits. He just doesn’t get home runs.

“You go back two years ago in the first half where he drove in everybody who was standing at second base. They were base hits. They weren’t always home runs. I think if he again starts using the field more – especially the opposite field – it also takes that shift away from them, which a lot of teams play on him. And I think it’ll make a difference.’’

That’s what Williams preached in his book. Teams used the shift against Williams, and this is when he didn’t use his own advice. However, Williams was so good he produced over his own stubbornness. In his wildest dreams, Davis isn’t half as good as Williams.

Williams might have been the greatest hitter ever, even considering Babe Ruth. Williams’ average year was .344 with 37 homers and 130 RBI. When you factor in he lost five prime years of his career serving in World War II and the Korean War, his lifetime numbers would have been through the roof.

When you boil it down, Williams’ fundamental advice about hitting was get a good pitch to hit. Williams was so precise he broke down the strike zone into baseball-size segments to where he had each area had its own batting average.

“As we’ve studied his at-bats, they’re just killing him away,’’ Collins told reporters after Thursday’s loss.

Williams calculated the low-and-away pitch at best would produce a .230 average. Davis isn’t even giving the Mets that much. That average would increase, Williams said, if the hitter went that way instead of trying to pull. Instead, Davis is chasing everything, which means the pitch doesn’t have to be that good.

Collins sees that: “If he starts going that way to where he’s going to use more of the field to hit, he’s got some better opportunities to drive some runs in.’’

Unfortunately, Davis does not: “Sometimes they’re helpful. Sometimes they’re not. Me slapping the ball the other way early in the count is probably not helpful.’’

Rebuttal: How would Davis know if he hasn’t tried it routinely? He did when he first came up, but rarely since.

Either Davis doesn’t know the fundamentals of hitting, or refuses to listen to his coaches and manager. And, Collins and GM Sandy Alderson are wrong for accepting this kind of performance.

Listen, I don’t know how to build a watch, but I know how to tell time, and the time has come for Davis to change. Either him, or the Mets should.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Dec 29

Baseball Movies For The Snowed In; Liking Kevin Costner And John Cusak

Saturday afternoon and it’s coming down. With no college games worth watching, channel surfacing has brought me to “Bull Durham,” one of my favorite baseball movies. Is there a better time to watch a baseball movie than during a blizzard?

Most baseball movies, actually sports movies in general don’t come across as believable because it is hard to duplicate the game-action scenes. Robert Redford had a decent swing in “The Natural,” but the movie lost me with the home run that blew up the lights and hitting the cover off the ball. I realize Hollywood takes its liberties, but that’s too much.

I like “Bull Durham,” but it’s not my favorite baseball movie. Not close. Maybe I expect too much, but the more I see it there’s more I find unbelievable. For one thing, nobody will hang around long enough to hit 247 minor league home runs.

Oh well, I guess I’m being too picky.

That being said, the following are my three favorite baseball movies:

1) FIELD OF DREAMS: There’s nothing realistic about this movie, but you go into it knowing it is a fantasy. This is a movie about fathers and sons as much as it is baseball, but it’s more about the bond between fathers and sons that is baseball. To me, that’s powerful and timeless.

There’s a limit on the baseball action scenes and Ray Liotta has a good swing for a right-handed hitter. Too bad Shoeless Joe Jackson was left-handed. That’s unforgivable. There’s such a thing as having a Hollywood license, but that’s just weak. Couldn’t they have reversed the film or something similar?

2) EIGHT MEN OUT: This is a gem. It’s one of those films, like my all time favorite, “Casablanca,” that I’ll stop on it whenever I channel surf. I’m a history buff and this is almost a historical documentary. The action scenes are believable and they got Shoeless Joe’s swing down. I thought John Cusak as Buck Weaver was great, beginning with his scenes with the street kids and concluding with end when he watched Shoeless Joe in a semi-pro game.

3) COBB: Tommy Lee Jones is good in just about everything and this is no exception. If you’ve read the book, this was dead on. It showed what a miserable person Ty Cobb was, but also how driven and intense player, one who hated Babe Ruth.

I thought the saddest part of the movie was the scene at the Hall of Fame when Cobb’s former teammates and colleagues wanted nothing to do with him and shunned him at a party. It was akin to the book about Johnny Carson when his former classmates ignored him at a high school reunion.

I guess “Bull Durham” is fourth. Major League 1 was humorous. Major League 2 was reheating a souffle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 11

Willie Mays became a Met on this date.

He was supposed to be a Giant forever, but on this day in 1972, San Francisco traded Willie Mays to the Mets for future trivia question answer, pitcher Charlie Williams, and $50,000.

MAYS: Playing stickball is how some will always remember him.

The trade was full circle for Mays, who returned to the city where he began his Hall of Fame 21 years before.

Mays showed few glimpses of greatness with the Mets. They were scarce and he looked old in the 1973 World Series. Still, he was still Willie Mays and he carried an aura about him. He was an electric player, in the field, on the bases and at-bat. And, even in those last games there was always the hope he’d provide one more memory.

Mays did not have the longevity in New York as Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider or Joe DiMaggio, but will always be linked to the city, and as they talk of his catch off Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series in the Polo Grounds against Cleveland, they also speak of him playing stickball with kids in the streets.

Mays finished with 660 home runs, but missed nearly two years at the beginning of his career to serve in the military. Had he played those seasons, there’s no telling how close he would have come to Babe Ruth. The numbers were staggering regardless as he played in that wind tunnel known as Candlestick Park. (For the record, Mays hit .298 with 39 homers and 106 RBI lifetime against the Mets).

Much to my regret, I never saw Mays play in person. I saw Mantle, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Roberto Clemente from his era, but never Mays. Television never did him justice. I do know, however, had I had that opportunity, I wouldn’t have taken my eyes off him the entire game.

He was that special a player. I hope you’ll share your special memories of Mays with me.